Of all the post-punk releases of the last 5 years, I return to this one the most. With Desire, Portland’s Mope Grooves funnel a bunch of diverse sounds into a well-set, trembling jello. A typewriter! Clappy sticks! Dinner bells! Also, Electric pianos, dictaphone recordings, drum machines, string sections and Casios! The songwriting is focused and super hooky, yet every song also feels like a contained self-discovery. There is no set approach or formula here—one song seems to be built around a set of samples, one a guitar part, another a drum machine cycle, or a electric piano phrase. Moods range from romantic dance to wistful introspection.
Conventional post-punk critical wisdom tends to celebrate the known templates (Joy Division again!), but Desire refreshingly invokes its predecessors while also feeling completely unique. It spiritually inhabits a similar space to The Fall’s masterpiece Grotesque, in that they both feel like an artist’s journal or diary—like 4-track bedroom recordings filtered through a band. However, while Grotesque may feel like an arrogant bloke’s manifesto (let’s be honest), Desire feels non-judgmental, open and inviting. All are welcome here.
The bass lines deserve their own paragraph. A real inspiration! They leave space but serve as anchor and glue. They are the door into this record—playful but always on-task, interpreting the melody in shorthand. Take opener “Turn to Glass” for a great example—it’s all about the space between the notes.
The production also deserves a special mention: balanced but gritty and unmistakably DIY, it colors the sounds and stitches them together—a fingerprint-covered lens to look through and contextualize.
Album closer “Many Variations” is the most beautiful lullaby. Romantic and warm like a flickering light.
Like all great records, Desire takes you to a place. It’s someone’s curated space, laid out exactly how they’d like it—private, but always welcoming.